Alain Delamuraz is in high demand at Baselworld. As Blancpain‘s vice president and head of marketing, his insights and knowledge are sought after, and he moves fairly quickly from one private showing room to another, pretty much all day long. But as he presents the newest from Blancpain, it is clear his passion for watches, and for Blancpain in particular, runs high. “We have always been about innovation, even in the early days. So it was the tradition that took some time to build, not the spirit of innovation. For us, this is no marketing tool, but the brand’s evolution and survival.”
The company was founded in 1735, making it one of the very oldest of firms, but as Delamuraz notes, with some emphasis, “We have brought into the world 32 new calibres in the last eight years alone.” The calibre, or movement, of the watch can vary in size to accommodate various designs of the overall watch, its face, and its bezel. For Blancpain to have so many new calibres in the last few years means they can create interesting variations on their basic house theme of fairly clean, simple lines, always with an eye to their past, and from which they never stray too far.
This year brings with it a new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback chronograph, a line which underscores the Blancpain association with both deep-sea diving and, to an extent, motor car racing, an association they embrace because it shows what precision and durability can be, even in such a finely crafted horological device. In fact, a Blancpain deep-sea timepiece, used more to gauge depth than to tell time, used to be dispensed along with the deep-sea diving equipment that could be rented, many decades ago. The new Fifty Fathoms does have one of those new calibres; it is a slightly bigger watch this year, at 43.60 mm diameter.
The new Calibre 5939A, which joins the Blancpain Villeret collection, is a great example of how the Blancpain mind works. The watch is quite simple on the face, clean and elegant, although displaying a lot of information. But when you turn it over, the back reveals the inner workings of the watch in all its complex glory.
The Blancpain 225L reveals a little more of the mechanism on its face, and has an added charm; the second hand, in a sly reference to the advent of such a thing on a watch, is slightly hooked at the end, like it was centuries ago. In those days, they needed to bend the hand to allow proper visual identification of the numbers, something that technology and innovation have solved over the centuries. Still, it is a charming note on a beautiful watch, emblematic of the history, the tradition, and the embrace of innovation that is Blancpain. As Delamuraz says, “We are not after the ‘wow’ effect. We are about long-term, and always reaffirming our architecture.”